The building the library lives now used to be the Public Record Office. Due to restrictions on historical buildings and sites, there are two rooms in the library which must remain as they were when the building was the Public Record Office, including the slate shelving. This brings up an interesting situation the librarians have had to work around. It is important to maintain historical sites, but for the library this means working around these unusable spaces. Also, the land that this building is on is legally royal property, but is leased out to the City of London. There are detailed maps posted on all the stacks in the library because due to the historical site restrictions, nothing can be posted on the walls in the building.
There are 11,000 students and 1,000 visitors at the Strand campus. The library contains three-quarters of a million items. The library has gone to great lengths since moving into its current building to make the library an efficient useful space for patrons. There are 300 computers available and wireless internet throughout the building. Social spaces and group study spaces have been created. The library also has a self service for students to use. There is a Round Room, similar to the Round Room at the British Museum. This room is for reference and silent study only.
Materials in the library range from such topics as humanities, law, and natural sciences. Different kinds of materials have different time limits to be checked out. For example, the DVD and multimedia collections are only available for a short loan period.
The special collections department hosts three exhibits a year. Once the exhibit is over, it is then digitized and made available online.
One of the incredibly rare items in the special collections is a 1493 Nuremberg Chronicle. There is an extensive medical collection because King’s was once the largest medical school in Europe. There are manuscript notebooks of doctors, noting anatomy and recipes for drugs. There is a copy of Florence Nightingale’s book, Sanitary History of the British Army at War with Russia, signed by the author. There is an original The Charters of the Provence of Pennsylvania and the City of Philadelphia, printed by Ben Franklin. From the Foreign Commonwealth Office there is a photo journal of Queen Elizabeth II coronation from a commonwealth in Africa. One of the most remarkable finds in this treasure trove is a secret photo album of photographs of the Rhine in Germany, compiled before the war in an effort to track all transportation along the river. There is also a rich holocaust collection.
Book arts plug for the day: In the current special collections exhibition is The Saint John’s Bible, by Liturgical Press. This work is a hand calligraphed collaboration between calligrapher Donald Jackson and a Benedictine Foundation in Minnesota. It is absolutely stunning.
*The amazing display cap above is by Jessica Hische, an amazing designer I came across in my perpetual search for awesome design and typography. The letter comes from her Daily Drop Cap project.